Literal and spiritual

Let’s get this show back on the road.

Elsewhere, I have tried to relate the distinction between spiritual and literal senses, and connected it to the distinction between the use of a text and its resistance to use.

Today, I’ve been thinking about a rather different way of exploring that contrast. The contrast between literal and spiritual might map on, more or less, to the distinction between the questions, “What does this say?” and “Where does this take me?” – the first being a question expecting an answer, the second a question expecting a journey.

I don’t mean to deprecate either side.

This would, I think, mean that the old idea that you can’t prove doctrine by the spiritual sense is a sound one – because if you’re playing the ‘proving’ game, you’re playing the ‘answers’ game, and so playing the ‘literal’ game by definition. Spiritual reading is about a different sense of ‘proving’: testing, exploring.

Hmmm. Not sure how much water this holds.

One Thought on “Literal and spiritual

  1. Interesting – first time I read this quickly I picked up the word “map” in “map on” and thought you were talking about the 2 questions one might ask when looking at a map. Maybe you are?? Which would give (chasing this a little way) a very clear “primacy of the literal sense” – you can’t follow a map without knowing what all the symbols mean “on the ground” – but also a clear “indispensability of the spiritual sense” – maps aren’t, for most people anyway, just pretty pictures, they’re there to follow.

    Hmmm. A map holding water is a bad idea, though.

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